piglet, do you have any… honey?

I came across a remarkable truth in A Biography of the Continent Africa by John Reader, and then researched a little more on the subject:

Honey is a quality food source for humans and other creatures alike.  Perhaps that’s why the African honeyguide, an 8-inch long bird commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa, feeds primarily on honey and other beehive contents.  But what is remarkable is the way in which this bird finds its meals.  The honeyguide is familiar with hives in its area, and upon spotting humans, attracts their attention with a particular form of flight and calling.  The bird then leads the honey-gatherers to the hive and waits for the discarded combs, in order to feast on a meal of the remaining honey and grubs. There is tradition in many local tribes that you must leave for the honeyguide a gift of comb, or else on another day you might be escorted to a poisonous snake or a lion.

Not only did I think this was a remarkable picture of mutual cooperation, but I began to wonder if I might have ever unknowingly observed one of these birds. Then I started thinking about life truths and spiritual implications:

  • Do I cooperate with others?  Are my motives selfish or pure?  Does it matter?
  • Am I thankful for what I receive from others, be it advice, guidance, help, or encouragement?
  • How might I better attune my ears to hear the promptings of God to follow him to a good place?
  • Do I thank God and give him glory when he gives me good gifts?
  • Is my relationship with God based on what I receive from him and what I’m afraid I might receive?
  • Are there ways in which I might lead others into God’s kingdom, and what might my “flight” look, or my “song” sound, like?  
  • For that matter, how often does the honeyguide “call” to humans who are not honey-gatherers, knowing that at least some are / will be?  Should I follow suit?

I kind of hesitate to tell this part of the story, but you nature-lovers will at least find it interesting — if not dismal and sad:  Honeyguides lay their eggs in nests that belong to other birds.  After hatching, the honeyguide chick instinctively murders all rightful heirs to the nest with an especially sharp bill, so that it can enjoy the totality of the foster parents’ nourishment.

There’s bound to be a devotional thought in there as well… or just a general attitude of thanksgiving that human twins aren’t born with sharp bills.



Filed under just thinking

5 responses to “piglet, do you have any… honey?

  1. So, I’m curious…. On my blog, this is the post most arrived at by way of search engine. If that’s how you got here, would you tell me why the African honeyguide is of interest to you? It just seems odd to me that so many people are attempting to read about this bird.

  2. Since you ask, I teach avian ecology and was trying to find a pic of the honeyguide baby’s sharp bill hook that it used to murder its nextmates. Fun stuff!

  3. thanks, todd. it is fun stuff. i’ve been made aware of a lot of really interesting animals since moving to tanzania. thanks for the info…

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